Gotta gulp this one down.

So the city of New York Department of Health has recently changed its ad campaign regarding the dangers of obesity. Specifically, this new campaign is on the prowl against fast food joints that offer larger or “super sized” portions on their menu.

Link to the article: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/in-new-ads-health-department-offers-super-sized-warnings/

The Department is using scare tactics to make individuals think twice about purchasing these portion sizes, noting that (in the ad in the article) the instances of Type 2 Diabetes has increased over the years which can lead to limb amputation. Scary stuff! As an aside, you might ask “is it true?” Yes, it is true. The picture goes a little far in its depiction, but diabetes can lead to amputations. From my research, it is frequently foot amputation that results, caused by a reduction in the Diabetes sufferer to feel pain in their extremities. This causes them to ignore injuries to the foot, leading to ulceration and gangrene and eventual removal of the limb. It’s an extreme take on the matter – the actual incidences of ulceration in diabetic patients is 2 – 3%, but the number of them that require amputation is 85%. So while it might be extreme, it is true.

But I did not come here to talk about amputation or even diabetes. No, I am here to discuss a little something in the article, a quote from a representative of the Beverage Association. From the Article:

“Portion control is indeed an important piece of the solution to obesity,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for the association. “But instead of utilizing scare tactics, the beverage industry is offering real solutions like smaller portioned containers and calorie labels that show the number of calories in the full container, right up front, to help people choose products and sizes that are right for them and their families.”

Let’s break this down a little. First off, right away he has a point – portion control is a very important component of controlling obesity. I know – I lost a lot of weight myself using just that. What about the second part of the quote? The point about the smaller containers and the calorie labels? Well, that’s …. not so good a point. I mean, the idea behind it is sound and it appears to be intended to help. But the reality is that it won’t really help the situation, either for obesity or diabetes. Let me explain what I mean. To do that, you need to understand a little something about calories.

Calories are in just about everything we eat. Save water which is needed as a transfer / mixing / suspension / etc fluid in the body, everything we eat or drink otherwise is caloric. This is a fact – the reasoning to support it is simple – there is no reason to eat something (biologically speaking) unless it is providing sustenance. Sustenance comes in the form of proteins, nutrients, minerals, fats, and sugars. The first two are used for cell production; the material is used to produce copies of DNA when cells split. Minerals are used to transfer oxygen, regulate processes and other large scale operations as well as provide very large scale structural building material (think calcium for bones). Fat provides slow energy to the system as well as building materials for things like cell walls. Sugar primarily provides energy to the system. Each cell is a motor and each motor needs fuel to burn. Sugar is that fuel – interestingly, your homeostatic system partially depends on this fuel use to provide heat to the body. One of the reasons we are “warm blooded” mammals.

A beverage producer means any company that makes fluids that we consume. Bottled water, soda, coffees, and so forth. Water is not part of the problem here (no calories) and it is (thankfully) one of the better selling drinks products to at least a portion of the populace. The problem is in the drinks that carry calories in them – the non-diet sodas, milk, and cream infused coffees and so forth. These beverages can provide a great number of calories to an individual very quickly, calories that you will absorb as readily as you will from food (you can thank evolution for that trick).

So, enough with the biology stuff, what’s the problem with his second point? The problem is two-fold. The first problem is that, as he states, the industry is offering “options” to individuals regarding beverage sizes. Oh really? Options, you say? Yeah! Give people the chance to buy a small amount of the product. What’s the problem with that? Well, it sort of completely misses the point of the ads. The ad in that article is pointing out that beverage sizes have been increasing over the years. Implied in that statement is the fact that people have been purchasing and drinking these larger sizes. They already have the “choice” to buy the smallest member of the line-up. They aren’t doing that – they are buying the largest product they can. Human nature, really.

Granted, the smallest member is not the smallest any more. One of the members over at Fark pointed out that Wendy’s announced that they were eliminating their super size portions some years ago. They did it, but not how you might think. They actually eliminated the smallest sizes and renamed the medium, large, and super into the small, medium, and large. In one motion, they increased their serving sizes permanently and fairly sneakily when you think about it. You don’t have the choice to go for a lower caloric amount because they simply do not provide it. In fact, they are playing pretty loose with the names of their meals, so much so that one might get fooled into believing they are having a modest amount of calories when they are having anything but.

This leads to the second problem. People are people and most do not give much thought to the calories that they see listed on the sides of products. I sure as hell didn’t when I was a fatass. Those calorie things were for the health nuts was my thought. You didn’t need to be that worried about them. Besides, they can’t add up that fast. What I was operating from, and what most people out there operate from, was blind, optimistic ignorance. I didn’t really know that much about calories or how weight really worked. The diet fad and junk food industries had a hand in that lack of knowledge. But the blame was mine too. Sure, the signal to noise ratio was and is atrocious, but I wasn’t exactly eager to learn either. During that time of my life, telling me that there were 80 calories in one thing and 220 in another was irrelevant. I didn’t know how much I needed and I didn’t figure that they added up that fast anyway. Hopefully some of you reading this know exactly where I’m coming from on this.

Not only did I not know the ins and outs of calories and weight, I didn’t care to know. A sort of intentional ignorance mixed with the other. I didn’t want to hear that my eating was my problem. That would have made me to blame for this, even if just partly and I didn’t want to hear that. Printing how many calories were in a soda to the side was irrelevant to me. It was not going to stop me from drinking it. Hell, I’d almost drink it to spite “them”. You know, those people that didn’t want me to enjoy eating. Screw them, they don’t know how this works either.

That is the attitude of the average man – they don’t care what it says on the side of the container. Those are just words and numbers. They don’t apply to them. Hell, they’re exaggerating it anyway. If I don’t need that much soda, then why do they sell it in that size? And that’s the other shoe, ladies and gentlemen. That is why that man, well intentions or not, is wrong. Giving people the numbers on the side? Meaningless; they don’t know how much they need, how much they had, and most simply won’t do the math. Smaller sizes? Useless; why are the bigger ones there if you don’t need them? The Associations response is to basically do as they have done before. Big surprise – that’s their profit margins they’re dealing with there.

Not that I am defending the ad itself. Amputee and big gulp cups? Might impact some, most for a few shamed minutes until the ad is gone and they go back to gobbling down food as they usually do.

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RONI PAUL!

Ron Paul is not going to win the Republican Presidential Candidate nod. There, I said it. Hardly an earth shattering prediction there, I know, but it has to be said. He will not win the nod. Romney will – maybe Romney will get sly and choose him as the running mate, but I doubt that.

So he won’t get a chance to run in the national election. That’s too bad, really. I mean that. Ron Paul looks like a nice man and one could argue that it’s “his turn” to try for the top seat, but sadly he will not get the opportunity. Not that he could really defeat Obama anyway. I don’t say that lightly – I am not implying that Obama is a powerhouse of a political force or anything of the sort. But let’s get real here, the chances of defeating an incumbent President are usually fairly low, so even were Paul the Republican Candidate, it would be an uphill battle.

And, let’s get honest here, that’s a good thing. Paul has some mighty strange ideas when it comes to what he would do as President. True, there are things that he would want to do that are not technically within the powers of the President. True, there are things that Paul would do that are positive and even beneficial. But let’s cut to the chase here – Paul has some rather negative ideas as well, ideas that would be like poison to the Union, even ideas that reduce the overall “Liberty” that he claims to love so much.

Things like removing the Federal protection for women to have an abortion. I am not getting into the different dimensions and arguments surrounding abortion – those are arguments for different times. Just boil the issue back to one of rights and freedoms – a woman has the liberty to abort, good or bad. Paul would revoke that right. That is contrary to his status as a Libertarian.

So is his position on drugs and drug use. Many of Paul’s supporters back him merely because he stated that he would stop the Federal Governments war on drugs. Mind you, even I agree that this “war” needs to be stopped and the entire campaign against narcotics rethought. However, Paul does not wish to merely provide a “get out of jail free” card here or even a pass to smoke your weed or snort your heroin or whatever. Instead, he wants to eliminate the Federal war on drugs in place of providing the states the right to wage that same war. That is, provide the states the responsibility to decide what to do about drugs and their use. Before you celebrate, know that most states would and have prohibited the sale, production, and use of drugs all on their own, in addition to the Federal rules. Some states desire more harsh treatment of individuals that are found with drugs that the Federal rules disallow. Paul is not out to make weed legal, he’s out to make it a state problem to deal with.

Paul adheres to a form of constitutionalism. Before you jump to the conclusion I seem to imply, I agree with the most basic tenant of constitutionalism, that of a governing body being limited by a set code of law that describes what they may and may not do. Canada has a constitution and it is one that I agree with for the most part and one that I enjoy seeing used to limit how the Federal and Provincial governments may conduct business. I’m serious – it’s hilarious. Seeing a government pass a bill only for the Supreme Court knock it down as unconstitutional is a good laugh, though an infrequent one. Paul is a constitutionalist, so he’s good people to me, right? Yes and no. Yes, because the idea that the Constitution limits the Government is good. No, because the power he seeks to limit constitutionally are not in the constitution to limit.

Paul is following a common interpretation of the Constitutional Document and its Amendments pursued by many Libertarians. That interpretation promotes the idea that the powers outlined in that document must be read in as narrow a manner as possible. In any case where an amendment or clause is vague, the resulting interpretation should construe the power it grants to be as small as possible. This interpretation is used to support the idea that many of the agencies of the Government, created from the power interpreted from the Constitution are illegal and should be eliminated. The reasons provide to explain why these powers should not be governmental are myriad – liberty, free market nonsense, inefficiency – and I will not discuss them at the moment. A thought for later, maybe?

Anyway, suffice it to say that this angle on the constitution seeks to narrow and flatten Federal power in an effort to decrease the size of the Government and accrue more “liberty” for the people. Liberty is in quotes here and there is a good reason for that – liberty in this context is rarely defined in a clear manner or in a way that accounts for all the possible repercussions of a given act of “increasing liberty” (or even what increasing it actually means). The problem with that method of interpretation is that it is not the interpretation that the Federal Government uses. The Federal Government generally uses the interpretation of the Supreme Court, which decides matters of adherence to the document in lieu of cases brought before it that impinge upon those rules. The Supreme Court has, in turn, read the document and found protections in some manners, expansions in others, and reductions in still others. There is nothing in their interpretation that is illegal or immoral and it is that interpretation that is used to create or enforce a given program or law.

Paul and his supporters dislike that interpretation and seek to change it – to change the interpretation of the document from that of the Supreme Court to that of their own wants. Gone would be the Commerce Department, an agency with a small budget that promotes Business in the Union. To them, this is an agency that was illegally created from, get this, the Supreme Court reading of the Commerce clause of the Constitution. Takes your breathe away, doesn’t it? Same with the Environmental Protection Agency, created from the same clause (if I recall correctly) to provide environmental protection. Illegal, they say – a gross abuse of power. Paul supports that view and that view is, frankly, batshit insane. This interpretation would move the Government, legislatively speaking back a century or two. Any agency or program it created during this time would be illegal and eliminated.

The problem with that? Beyond the inherent unbalanced nature of such an action? It makes no contextual sense. The Constitution is a living document – a set of rules that must flex as time passes and society changes. The founding fathers were not gods among men – they were humans with pretty good intentions and a couple of sharp thinkers. Thinkers so sharp that they made the language of the document vague enough that it could be applied and re-interpreted as things changed. And they have. The Civil Rights Act – you know, the one that stopped a potential second civil war (this one over race) from occurring – is not in the Constitution. Not blatantly. But it does say “…that all men are created equal.”, does it not? People were not following the Constitution when they discriminated against African Americans because they are men and men are equal. So the Government made an Act to enforce that portion of the Constitution. Simple as that. That is not a power that it should not have possessed – it was a power it was 100 years late in exercising.

The point is simple. Ron Paul is a decent man, but he should not be President. His view of the law and the Government are demonstrably false and his intentions are almost all categorically against the health of the Union that is the United States.

Still, for evil assholes like myself (at times – my sense of humor can be fairly sick), a Ron Paul presidency would be a gold mine of insanity. Were it not for the Supreme Court, it would be amusing to have him be the President and watch the US tear itself apart. Good times, never to be.

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Deregulate? Whom exactly?

Hey ladies and gentlemen. Back in the saddle again … wonder how often I say that? Anyway, got a smallish rant here for you. It’s a thought that just struck me of late and it has to do with deregulation.

Deregulation is that little buzz word you hear from many Republicans and some Democrats as a means to prop up the economy and business and all that lovely nonsense. They argue that regulation is strangling off legitimate business, making it more and more difficult for competition to erupt and all that jazz. In some ways, they have a point, mostly on the international arena where a company might operate and compete against one that works in a country that has little regulation on the pollution that they can generate or the health of their workers. Of course, those for deregulation seem to tacitly give their approval of abusing human rights and killing the environment, thought every one of them would argue that that’s totally not what they mean, dude. Like, for sure.

Anyway, the people that push deregulation tend to be the conservative types, people that are on the side of businesses doing as they should do and all that. Nothing really outwardly wrong with the idea if it is tempered with a little common sense. That’s the case with many things in our little world. But there is something there that I’ve noticed and that others have noticed and it bears commentary. People that are for deregulation, that want the rules that ensure businesses and corporations mind their P’s and Q’s, don’t apply that same mentality to people. Not all of them, at least – some push for the deregulation of people as well, but they are far fewer in number. Bear with me here – politicians have been removing the regulations that stop a business from acting in a particularly nefarious manner while increasing the rules that stop you or I from doing the same. This is an important point. The argument seems to be that an individual cannot be trusted to act in a rational and honest manner while a corporation can be eminently trusted to do just that, though it is operated by the very people you do not trust at the individual level.

An example. Back in 1999 or so, the government of the US decided to remove key portion of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. One of  those measures were enacted so that Banks could not operate a risky business and place that risk into accounts that were insured by the Government. Basically, it separate the investment, insurance, and deposit taking portions of the Bank into separate businesses that, while related, could not transfer debts between them. A very wise precaution. However, it was argued – and I am dead serious about this – that these protections were unnecessary because (it was argued) that no bank in its right mind would ever do such a thing anyway. Take that in for a second; the argument basically hinged on the idea that the banks were, inherently, honest. That they would not operate in a manner that maximized their own benefits and gains at the expense of the taxpayer because it “wouldn’t make sense”. I’m dead serious here.

Did it work? Well, the Bank of America a month or so back transferred 56 TRILLION in credit swaps from it’s investment branch to the deposit branch. 56 trillion dollars worth of the stuff that had a heavy hand in the collapse in 2008. They calm transferred it into the pockets of the taxpayers. If they win, BoA gets the money. If they lose, the American taxpayer will be on the hook for them. Yes, honestly. I am not making this up. So much for “no banker would do such a thing”. They are just the latest to do just that.

At the same time portions of Sarbanes-Oxley was repealed, the DMCA was enacted. That little law provides corporations all sorts of protections … against you, of course. Protection from your “stealing” their copyrighted work, among other things. Most of the items in the PATRIOT Act are directed toward the reduction of individual liberty, while leaving much of business alone. Most of the tax cuts under Bush have been to business and not to individuals. A Bill here in Canada is being pushed through to criminalize all sorts of activity, not for business, but for individuals. Activity that is legal now, but won’t be in several months. Note – we have a conservative government right now.

The conclusion implied here should be obvious. Deregulation only means business. Screw the rest of us. Because, as you know, corporations NEVER break the law to the tune of billions of times worse than a single human can. Nope. Never. Saints really – we should canonize them for their awesome reputations.

And before it is stated, no I don’ t mean all business as such. Pretty such the Sobeys in my area isn’t dumping toxic waste or killing off species for profit. But a couple of bad eggs can ruin the carton for the rest.

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Mynd you, moose bites Kan be pretti nasti.

Sorry about the time between posts there, people. Duty calls and all that. Another post and another of my changes of pace here. I am going to talk a little about a problem that is local to my Province(not that others don’t face it, but it’s topical here). That problem is moose.

Yeah, I’m talking about the big, dumb, lumbering beasts that roam the woods here. A animal not unlike many that roam the forests of North America, with its majestic call … that sounds something like a smoker breathing his or her last. They were never native to the Island portion of the Province, but were added by Liberal god that was Smallwood in what I can only imagine was some sort of drug fueled mad delusion from one too many nights downtown. Brought in and set loose on an unsuspecting and naively optimistic populace for the purposes of “hunting” them. Yeah, really.

Anyway, there are here now and all that, so what’s the problem? Well, there is just the one, but she’s a real harsh one. Turns out that there are no natural predators here on the Island to hunt the things where we won’t. That is, nothing considers them their primary source of food other than Humans which (I can assure you) likewise do not consider them their primary source either. Great to have them around in case the zombie apocalypse breaks out tomorrow, but kind of a burden otherwise. This problem, coupled with the simple regulation of “sustainable hunting quotas”, have created a rather grim situation here. The Moose, getting more numerous all the time, have been sauntering across highways, at night, and cars have been running into them. In many cases, these have resulted in fatal accidents.

So, given that we are in an election cycle here (actually about to end as today is election day) a concern citizens group has rose up to make it some kind of campaign issue. Nothing stupid so far, this is there right and I agree that something should be done. The PC’s indicated that they are looking into increased licenses for hunting. Not bad. The NDP have indicated that they are looking into the same or maybe even a cull. Good, good. The Liberals? Oh, man … the Liberals. They actually proposed that the Province install …. FENCING around the roads. You know, to keep the little buggers off them. This has been a recommendation of the concerned citizens group so one could not blame the Liberals for bowing to it for votes. Except for one tiny issue.

The idea is fruitier than a boat load of nuns.

Whomever came up with the idea of fencing is, simply, batshit insane. I mean that. Batshit insane. Why? Is it because they can’t, don’t, won’t work? Yeah, that’s part of it. Fences have been tried and they fail to stop the beasts. How? Well, you see, moose sort of climb over them. There is a rather amusing video of a moose doing just that on youtube – http://youtu.be/kK69nTF_yNY. That’s a young bull too, so the whole plan is pretty much useless.

Beyond that, though, it is stupid for a whole other reason. The cost. This is a Province of 500,000 people with over 9,600 kilometres of road. Let’s arbitrarily take 3,600 off that for towns, cliffs, roads with low speed limits and the like. This is more than generous – it’s ludicrous, but it’s to illustrate the point. That leaves 6,000 road kilometres to cover with fence or 6,000,000 meters. Each meter of fence would need to be, say, 6 feet tall to block the animals – it actually needs to be higher, but we’re estimating here. Material would need to be sufficient to block them but able to allow other animals to pass. It also needs to be durable – wood palings are not adequate. A metallic or plastic net would be adequate. There needs to be fence posts intermittently to hold the thing up – metal ones are preferred. Like the ones for chain-link fence. A post every meter is pretty good. 6,000,000 * 2 sides of the road = 12,000,000 posts and 12,000,000 metres of wire. Poles need to be 8 feet tall for embedding into the ground, so we need to factor that in. We also need to factor the cost of labour, and the cost of cement and stone for seating materials. Estimates for chain link installation run (from a brief search) around $18.00 per linear foot which should serve as a good proxy.

3 meters = 10 linear feet. 12,000,000 / 3 = 4,000,000 * 10 = 40,000,000 linear feet (rough estimate. At $18.00 a foot, we are looking at $720 million for the fence. 720 million for what amounts to a minor hurdle for the moose. 720 million on a population of 500,000 or $1,440 per capita. Yep, that sounds feasible. And it’s such a good investment. Screw infrastructure improvements or aid to community groups or to the elderly or anything of the sort. We got to spend almost 3 quarters of a billion dollars on ineffectively keeping moose off the road.

Idiots.

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Protests and Apples

Occupy my Baton, please!

Damn it so much.

You know, I am never one for the hate train on the police. You always have the bad apples and so forth. Even my profession has had the fraudsters and whatnot. But it makes it hard to defend when people are able to point to videos taken of the one of them making a complete jackass of themselves. Such as this video from last nights Occupy Wall Street Protests. What appears to be a uniformed officer is beating protestors with an metal rod. That is just … I can’t even put that one into words.

But look at that video! That is not the only one for sure – look at the number of cameras there! There must be dozens in the vicinity of the incident alone. Outrageous! How dare they? How could they do such a thing!? Is that what I’m expected to say, I wonder. Actually, it is outrageous … that there were not more camera and more videos there. People might get this image in their heads that I am some sort of defender of the state. I suppose I am, in a way. But defending something from unwarranted attack does not mean I write it a blank cheque for anything that it does. What they did is deplorable from the videos I have seen – even more so when one considers that it was unprovoked.

Some will point out that if these are the poor protesting, how did they get cameras? No contest; there are more than just the poor present and camera technology has gotten dirt cheap of late. It doesn’t have to be the best bit-rate or greatest resolution to take pictures / film and be understood when viewed. I would personally recommend that a camera be considered standard equipment during protests, both by the protesters and the police. Helps to keep people honest.

 

Jobless Apples

Steve Jobs, the heart and soul of Apple, passed away yesterday evening at the age of 56. He leaves behind a legacy of easy to use tech and brutal corporate control of its use. I have heard the snark that he took one look at the new iPhone and said “Meh, that’s it, I’m out of here.” Seriously, my condolences to his family … and to the families of the other estimated 155,000 people that died yesterday. Kind of puts giving special kudos to one man into perspective a bit there, doesn’t it?

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Occupy away, you crazy thing.

This is a topic that I’ve seen a little bit about, here and there, across the Internets and into the “traditional media”. This idea of the Occupy Wall Street protests. These protests were apparently started weeks before by various individuals, some of which may be associated with Anonymous, in the streets and park that surround the financial district in New York. Occupy Wall Street has attracted hundreds, even thousands, to the area to protest. These protests have even spread to other parks and such all over the United States. A completely peaceful gathering of individuals that are finally standing up and saying … something or another…?

That didn’t have the punch that one might hope and to be fair, it wasn’t meant to. I’ve been watching from the sidelines and I have to admit that the point of these protests – the message – escapes me to a certain extent. They’re angry – ok. They’re through with just taking it – fine. They are mobilizing – good. Their goal – ? Honestly, there does not seem to be much of a point to the whole thing; no unified message that they are trying to get across. A look at some pictures from the protests and one sees a sea of different signs with different messages vying for attention. All of them may be legitimate messages with perfectly reasonable points and a concise set of demands, but I can’t hear one for want of the others. The signal to noise ratio is out of whack, which impairs my ability to pick out what they are trying to get across.

Hell, I heard a clip from a radio program (Majority Report) which had the host state that the message couldn’t be clearer. And even he was dancing around the bush like a madman trying to articulate what exactly that “very clear” message was. It’s like a big trolling exercise – how long can they remain protesting without an actual goal for change in mind? It would be better than a Rick Roll heard around the world.

I recently heard that they will be voting on a position statement soon. It cannot be soon enough, in my opinion. For any that might read this that are part of the protests – MAKE A MISSION STATEMENT AND STICK TO IT! Ensure only those that are clear on the statement speak to the media. You do not want anyone there that are protesting the Lizard People that are in control of Wall Street making sweet verbal love to the mic. It is not in your best interests; it paints the entire movement with the image of a movement of kooks and nut jobs, I doubt many are such, but the image – once applied – will stick. Get a message and get speakers to push it. Else this will be ignored like every other such act.

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Religion … in my schoolin…?

You know, I have memories of church hymns from my youth. I couldn’t give you any of the names of them and only fragments of the actual lyrics remain, but those memories stick with you. I was never the most religious – actually, it is far more reasonable for me to say that I was never religious in the strictest sense. It was never a real topic of discussion at my house as both my father and mother were uninterested in religion after their brushes with it in their own youth. We did not adhere nor attend.

Then, you might wonder, where did I hear these hymns? In school, of course. At this time in the Eighties, the Roman Catholic Church still operated the schools in this Province. That made for all kinds of fun, as you might imagine. Fun things like … religion class in the school. Nothing wrong with that right. Taking a class and learning about the worlds religions can be beneficial; you know, broaden ones horizons and all that. Well, you’d be right about that if it weren’t for two little problems.

The first was that it was not a single class.  No, I had religion class every year of my schooling from Grade 1 all the way up to Grade 9. Nine years of religion in total. Not too bad right? I mean, so they got to devote a year to each major religion and deal a little with the minor ones.

Wrong again. The second problem was that we did not learn about world religions or major religions. We learned about one religion; constantly re-threading the same material over and over and over again. Any guesses about what religion we learned about? Roman Catholic School, Roman Catholic town with one church that was (GASP) Roman Catholic? If you guessed “Roman Catholic”, you need a cookie.

Yes, it was the Roman Catholic religion that we were taught. None others. Not even a peep about Buddhists or Muslims or whatever. There was only one religion, Catholicism. Sure, in later years, our History class touched on the others a little bit. And I seem to recall a vague mentioning of Martin Luther, but nothing substantial. It was a series of classes designed to indoctrinate the child, not to teach them about the nature of religion. I had to conform or risk my academic performance and my families relative safety within the community. Sure, most were laid back about the whole thing, but there are always those few nuts that would view such a thing as heresy.

So what is my point here? Difficult to say. I think I can sum it up by saying that having a religion class in school is not a bad idea, but it has to teach all religions equally. I mean, lets be honest. If people allow this thing to rule them, then it behooves us to ensure we understand it. It would be like teaching children about 20th century history and leaving Would War II out – it’s rather a major part of the whole goings on in that century. There are many major religions, each with their own beliefs and customs and understanding them (even basically) is a good thing. Keeps you from making stupid faux pas. But most people that you hear talk about “teaching the bible in schools” are talking about having their own particular brand of religion taught, not a broad scope discussion on world religions, past and present. That is the problem and it is why it is generally better left to the side. Until people can grow up and look at the whole thing like rational adults, it is likely to remain outside the curriculum.

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Is it actually “life” support in that case?

Sorry for the technical difficulties there, folks. Computers can be a harsh mistress. Back again now, so hopefully I can keep the groove going. Hmmm, I wonder if this blog reads like a running list of things that piss me off? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Well, given the science pieces and such, probably a running list of things that intermittently piss me off.

Anyway, this one’s based on a forum post of mine from some time ago. We had an article posted here from news sources in Ontario speaking of a rather tragic little situation. A normal couple had given birth to a seemingly healthy child; no news there. Unfortunately for the poor little thing, the child contracted an infection in the upper brain stem. This infection spread quickly and effectively liquefied the baby’s brain mass in a matter of weeks. Before long, all three brain centres (the Forebrain, the Midbrain, and the Hindbrain) were all destroyed. The child was hooked up to our amazing life supporting technology which allowed the body shell to continue functioning.

Effectively, the child was brain dead. We are able to keep its systems active for an indefinite period. Such is the state of support technology. The family was heartbroken, but relieved that their child was “saved” by modern medicine. Only thing was, of course, that it was not saved at all. All that was left was the shell of what used to be a human. All the parts that make the child a person (memory, thought, language, etc) were irrevocably and permanently gone). The child was brain dead – for people like me (for whom the brain is who you are), they were dead from the moment the infection began to feast on brain matter.

I am not a super genius, of course, so I was not the first to notice that. The Doctors at the hospital noted the same thing – the child was dead. So they made simple plans to yank the cord and terminate the shell. The parents kicked up blue murder over the matter – how dare they do this, how can they kill their kid, and so forth. This is one of those examples that I can point to when people accuse me of being some sort of hippy liberal left-wing pot smoking nut. I agree with the Doctors in this matter; pull the plug and let it cease to be. Give the family some final closure.

Look at it from various angles. The child’s brain is gone; there is no person left there. All that remains is an animated corpse. Pull it to give it some dignity in death. Pull it to save the Hospital and the Medical System resources better spent on other living children in need of that machine. Pull it because there is no future for it – it is not “alive” in the sense that you or I am. It is not autistic, it is not in a coma; its brain is gone and without it, they are gone. Let it go.

To those that mention that I couldn’t do it, I will admit it would be very hard. But I hope I would have the presence of mind to realize that my child died weeks ago. What’s left is not my kid. Rather, it’s the shell it left behind. I would hope that I could do what needed to be done. And I mean that in more ways than just unplugging. My child is dead, but the body is alive. The organs in that body are fine – unmolested and fully functional. Not only would I pull that plug, but I would tell them to harvest it for anything they could use. Eyes, heart, kidneys, pancreas, liver, spleen, capillaries; whatever they can get. If they can get 10 good organs from that body and put them into 10 other dying children and they can live normal lives … isn’t that better than selfishly holding onto the last remnant of my child?  Isn’t that better than wasting all the good it could do others? In some way, my child would live on in these other kids, keeping them alive for their families. That would be my way of giving the death of my child a meaning. “Died to save others” – better than wasting away hooked up to machines.

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Ain’t taxes grand?

One of our wayward members popped by the forums over the weekend to engage in a little conversation in our chat (Try it, just go to the forums – I try to hang around as much as possible). Between accusing me of various and sundry levels of ignorance and fanaticism, he brought up a point related to taxation. Man, I love me some taxation – it is one of the myriad things that I have been trained to deal with (Yes, really). As an Accountant, tax planning is one of my primary areas of expertise.

Anyway, back on topic. Specifically, he brought up the case of this woman living in Canada who is facing being taxed by the United States. I believe that he was using the case as an example of how leaving a country does not stop that country from controlling you (in a manner). He is a Libertarian, an individual that triumphs personal freedom and market solutions as opposed to any sort of centralized Governmental involvement. I will not get into the merits of that position itself (I could speak volumes), but I’d like to speak to that case for a second, if I might.

The woman lives and works in Ontario and pays all the legal and necessary taxes of the Country and Provinces of Canada. However, she has recently been served a bill from the IRS, the taxation arm of the US, for back taxes owed to the Government. How could this have happened? How can a foreign nation tax the citizen of another nation?

Quick answer: When the nation isn’t foreign.

The woman in question was born in the US and lived there a short time before moving to Canada with her family. The family obtained Canadian Citizenship which subjects them to the rules of Canada, including her tax system. But they did not immediately renounce their citizenship in their origin country, the US. That means they all have dual citizenship – they are members of both countries and are subject to both sets of rules, including taxation.

That is not a big deal for the most part as countries such as Canada and the United States have tax treaties that govern the taxation of money earned by citizens of one in the country of the other. These treaties credit the taxation of the other country on the forms they file in their home country. For example, most income tax here (Canada) is withheld at the source by the employer, as well as monies for various programs (CPP and EI). An American that works here, but pays taxes in the states would otherwise be subject to double taxation (Taxed once in Canada and again in America) if not for the fact that the US credits the individual with the withholdings made by Canada.

Dual citizenship adds a wrinkle to all this. By the law of both countries, they are required to being filing tax the moment they begin to work. No major problems there – work in Canada, withheld in Canada, file in America, and get credited for it all, right? Well, no, nothing is ever that simple. You see, as much as Canada tolerates their mad neighbour to the south, they have decided (wisely) not to follow them lockstep in everything they do. This means different laws, different justice system, and different tax rates and programs. The tax agreements will credit you for what you pay, but if one or the other do not possess a program that the other does that otherwise allows for a decrease in taxes payable, then you have to make up the difference.

A quick example to make this clear. In Canada, we have the RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) program. It allows a person to invest (in a variety of approved items) money they earn during the year (up to a given maximum based on income) and get a dollar for dollar deduction on their taxes for it. Say I make $50,000 and I put $10,000 into an RRSP – I am only allowed to be taxed on $40,000 as a result. Sounds good right? The trick is that the Government of Canada allows you to invest and earn interest tax free while you work and lower your burden for tax. When you retire, you draw that money out of the RRSP and are taxed on it then.

This is the rule that’s bitten this woman across the butt (among some others). She has been contributing to an RRSP while she worked, but the US has no such program. That means that $10,000 I mentioned above? The tax free bit? That is tax free in Canada, but not tax free in America, so she must pay the difference. Those are the rules. Likely they are pursuing these amounts now due to the horrible financial hole they gotten themselves into. How could she have avoid this? She says so in the article – do like her brother did to avoid the draft and renounce your citizenship in America. They cannot tax non-citizens. But as long as you are a member, you’re subject to their rules, no matter where you are. Unfortunately for her, the only way to do that now is to first pay the outstanding fees, fines, and taxes she owes. Sucks, but that’s the way it is. Were I her accountant, it would be one of the first things that I would recommend when she started working. Either that, or put aside the cash and pay them their money.

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Don’t Ask, just berate …

Man, I love election time. Be it the local municipality, the Provincial Government, another province, the Federal Government or the various races across the globe, I love them all. You just cannot get the sort of rich, creamy stupid so easily mocked served so frequently and with such fervor as you can at election time.  I’m serious – when I moved to my current house a few years ago, it was right before the municipal elections and the local free newspaper in the area made a point to run letters to the editor related to the election. It was hilarious – people complaining about pallets of wood in neighbours front yards, others complaining about the state of a non-existent stadium that could never be supported locally, and all kinds of madness. I took a point of reading the articles to my brother so we could mock ruthlessly. Good times – paper hasn’t been near as entertaining since.

Anyway, yes, I’m going somewhere with this. My point is that elections make for good entertainment – good, scary entertainment. Which leads me to the recent Republican debate. You knew it was coming to this – when you put entertainment, politics, and scary, the Republican Party is the result. So what piece of bile has my goat at the moment from the collection of derp that is a Republican debate? Why, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, of course. During their little debate, the candidates were asked about the repeal of the rule that required homosexual members of the service to hide their orientation. The repeal gives them the right to be gay or lesbian – that is, to be as open about it as heterosexuals are about their orientation. Man kisses wife on base? Man kisses his male partner on base. Man and woman holds hands at an official function? Two women hold hands.

Anyway, there were negative reactions from the audience (booing). That is, the republican voters in the crowd did not like the idea of there being any gays in the military and hated it even more that they were going to be given the special treatment of being treated identically to everyone else. The candidates were all over it though. Given the golden opportunity to separate themselves from the hate and bile in the party, they bravely … said nothing. Nothing at all. They did not berate the audience members , they did not correct them, and they did not distance themselves from such bile. Their silence was deafening on the matter – their answers were meaningless double speak as usual, but their actions spoke louder. Way to keep that elegance and grace up there, Republicans! Yes sir, nothing like booing the men and women that protect your way of life. I guess we have our answer to how far “support our troops” goes, hmmm?

Between cheering to let the uninsured die to booing soldiers in the military, from blocking any attempt to stop the double-dip recession to whining like spoiled brats over the prospect of new taxes, the Republicans are really giving people a show of their concern for their fellow man. With concern like that, who need genocidal maniacs or terrifying natural disasters. Don’t worry about it – the GOP will kill you all off just fine. They don’t need you low class wretches anyway- the rich are what makes the world work, right? Right?!

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